Oil Heads for Two-Year High as U.S. Stocks Shrink Ahead of OPEC

Oil headed for its highest close since June 2015 while trading volume surged after U.S. industry data showed crude stockpiles resumed declines and as investors await a decision by OPEC on extending output cuts.

January futures rose as much as 1.7 percent in New York on volume seven times higher than the 100-day average. Inventories fell by 6.36 million barrels last week, the American Petroleum Institute was said to report. Government data Wednesday is forecast to show supplies slid 2.2 million barrels, according to a Bloomberg survey, which would be the first decline in three weeks.

Oil is trading near a two-year high before the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries meets in Vienna next week to decide on an extension of supply cuts past the end of March. Saudi Arabia reduced its crude exports in September to the lowest level since March 2011, according to official data submitted to the JODI global database.

“It does appear the only way is up for oil,” said Michael McCarthy, a chief strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney. “A lot of traders are speculating about the potential outcome of the OPEC meeting. Expectations are high and that could lead to disappointment if OPEC and its partners don’t deliver, but it doesn’t seem many are prepared to take the risk of that happening.”

West Texas Intermediate for January delivery gained as much as 97 cents to $57.80 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange and was at $57.68 at 2:30 p.m. in Hong Kong. The contract added 41 cents to $56.83 on Tuesday.

Brent for January settlement added 50 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $63.07 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange after climbing 0.6 percent on Tuesday. The global benchmark traded at a premium of $5.38 to WTI.

U.S. crude stockpiles at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for WTI and the biggest oil-storage hub, dropped by 1.8 million barrels last week, the API said, according to people familiar with the data. Gasoline inventories expanded by 869,000 barrels last week, according to the API.

Oil-market news:

  • Andy Hall, the veteran crude trader who closed his hedge fund this year, will brief OPEC officials on the outlook for U.S. shale oil, according to a copy of the agenda seen by Bloomberg News.
  • The front-month contract for WTI futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange just turned more expensive than the second-month contract. The market hasn’t settled in that structure, known as backwardation, since November 2014.

Sources and photo-credits: Bloomberg